Statistics: Income and Employment
What do massage therapists earn?1
Self-employed or not?1
- Independent practitioners (average): $25,365
- Independent practitioners (median): $22,000
- Employees (average): $19,605
- Employees (median): $15,750
- Average gross income during first year of practice: $8,864
Years of experience2
- Independent practitioner: 77.9%
- Employee: 6.7%
- Combination of both: 15.5%
- Less than 1 year: 12.3%
- 1-3 years: 22.6%
- 4-6 years: 21.8%
- 7-9 years: 13.1%
- 10-12 years: 11.8%
- 13-15 years: 7.8%
- More than 16 years: 10.7%
Where massage therapists work2
- Average number of clients seen per week: 10
- Average client contact hours per week: 17.8
- Median client contact hours per week: 12
- 47% of massage therapists have another job, at which they spend an average of 22 hours per week. The top five secondary occupations: office, medical, education, sales/retail, massage instructor.
- 67.2% of massage therapists say they wish they had more clients
Note that these statistics are different from those found on the Massage Clients page. That page indicates the most common locations in which clients receive massage. These figures, which were self-reported by therapists in a 2009 survey, indicate how therapists divide their individual workload between multiple locations.
Working in multiple locations2
- Therapist’s office (31.5% of all massages given by the therapist)
- Massage clinic (13.8%)
- Therapist’s home (11.8%)
- Chiropractic or medical office (10.5%)
- Day spa (9.6%)
- Client’s home (5.3%)
- Chair massages in a therapist’s office (2.5%)
- Chair massages in a public location (2.4%)
- Health club (2%)
- Salon (2%)
- Resort/hotel (1.9%)
- Hospital (1.1%)
- Destination spa (0.8%)
U.S. Bureau of Labor Standards statistics
- 33.8% of therapists spend all their professional time at one location
- 31% provide massage at two locations
- 15.1% provide massage at three locations
- 73.1% of massage therapists work in a spa at least part time
- Of these, 64.4% work as independent contractors to the spa
The U. S. Bureau of Labor Standards reports median average annual income for massage therapists to be $34,900, including gratuities (U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2008). This figure is obviously very different from ABMP’s reported employee median of $15,750.
The bureau derives their number by gathering data showing a mean hourly wage of $16.78 for massage therapists, then multiplying it based on a 40-hour working week—a workload which does not reflect the reality of the massage profession. In addition, the Bureau of Labor Standards does not include self-employed workers in its data, despite the fact that more than two-thirds of U.S. massage therapy practitioners are self-employed.
ABMP believes it is misleading for the bureau to report these numbers at face value, and for others to imply that the results are representative of massage practitioners as a whole.
Attitudes to employment
The vast majority of massage therapists are independent practitioners. Almost half of massage therapists earn income from another job in addition to their massage practice. Massage therapy is often a second or third career.
Many cite lack of fulfillment in previous careers, and a desire to be their own boss, as reasons for choosing a career in massage therapy and bodywork. They may have left other careers to pursue the opportunity to help people on a one-to-one basis. Practitioners report they are motivated by a genuine desire to improve the health and wellbeing of clients.
Practitioners often see themselves less as business people and more as individuals with a calling or mission. Research suggests many are hesitant to embrace aggressive, sustained marketing tactics.
With a median of 12 hours a week spent in direct contact with clients, the independent practitioner spends many additional hours weekly on administrative or other business tasks: maintaining the massage room, ordering supplies, returning phone calls, keeping books, promoting the practice, and other aspects of running a business.
1. 2011 ABMP Income Survey
2. 2009 ABMP Member Survey
Glossary of More Than 250 Entries on Massage Treatments
Searchable Archive of More Than 1,000 Articles, from
Acupressure to Zen